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Monday, May 3, 2021

I Think I want to Divorce My Spouse - Can I get the Marriage Legally "Annulled?"

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Divorce

When a married a couple ends their relationship, this typically ends in divorce where a court finds that a valid marriage existed but the parties have determined that the marriage should end. In some circumstances, one or both parties may claim a valid marriage never existed and may seek an annulment. An annulment is an action where the Court issues an order saying that the marriage never existed because there was an issue with one or both parties that prevented that party from entering into a valid marriage relationship.

Keep in mind that this is different from a civil annulment that is often necessary for religious purposes, such as if you want to take part in the sacraments of the catholic church. These are totally different types of processes and have different impacts - an annulment in the catholic church for example has no bearing at all on the legal validity of your marriage or prior marriage.

Annulments under Michigan law are hard to obtain. In Michigan, there is a strong presumption regarding the validity of a ceremonial marriage. Rodenhiser v. Duenas, 296 Mich. App. 268, 272, 818 N.W.2d 465, 467–68 (2012) citing In re Adams' Estate, 362 Mich. 624, 627, 107 N.W.2d 764 (1961). This presumption is one of the “strongest known to the law.” Id. The presumption can only be overcome with “clear and positive proof” that the marriage was not valid. Id. citing Quinn v. Quinn, 4 Mich. App. 536, 538, 145 N.W.2d 252 (1966).

Under Michigan law, a marriage can be annulled for any of the following reasons:
• Bigamy: a party was married to another person at the time the parties married
• Relationships of consanguinity and affinity: marriage between blood or other closely related relatives
• Incompetence: the party did not have the capacity to enter into the marriage (claiming your spouse is an “idiot” will not satisfy this)
• A party was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage and the parents of the minor did not consent to the marriage
• A party was induced to enter into the marriage through fraud or duress

Annulments based on fraud are hard to obtain. The common denominator for cases requiring fraud as the basis for an annulment is one party had no intention of ever fulfilling his or her marriage “vows.” See, Chudnow v. Chudnow, No. 218650, 2001 WL 672571, at *2 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 27, 2001), referencing generally, Sampson v. Sampson, 332 Mich 214; 50 NW2d 764 (1952).

If an annulment is granted, this can have an impact on other matters related to divorce proceedings. Concerning child custody, custody of children may be granted immediately to the party whose contact was not the basis for the annulment being granted. Concerning spousal support, a party may be barred from receiving permanent spousal support if an annulment is granted.

If you have questions on this or any other domestic relations matters, please contact Attorney Eric R. Schroeder at the Nichols Law Firm, 517-432-9000 or eschroeder@nicholslaw.net.

By Eric R. Schroeder, JD; MPA; LLM

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Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.